Every day in California, workers are hurt or injured on the job, and are often too hesitant to make a worker’s compensation claim because they are afraid the Company will just fire them if they can’t work, or if they seek worker’s compensation benefits. All California residents should be warned: it is ILLEGAL for a company to fire a worker or employee simply because of the worker’s compensation claim. If you or a loved one has been let go shortly after a worker’s compensation claim, here is an overview of your rights.
“At Will” Employment
As most employees already know, California is an “at-will” state, meaning, that an employer can let an employee go for any reason, at any time, or for no reason at all. Employees can resign from their jobs at any time for any reason. However, once an employee suffers an injury on the job, or files a worker’s compensation claim, the company may be looking for a way to let the employee go, rather than deal with the injury or the claim. Worker’s compensation claims arise when a worker has been injured during work. This can be anything from being injured from equipment, on the premises, or injuries due to the physicalities or stress of work.
Assignment of Undesirable Duties as a Way of Persuading Resignation
It is also important to remember that an employer can control what tasks an employee performs, and if you have an employer set on getting an employee to quit, the employer can reassign or assign duties to that employee that are physical demanding or likely to cause injury. Because many employees will not stay long in jobs that are dangerous, painful, draining, or too hard on their bodies, it can be an easy way for employers to “constructively terminate” an employee – which is a fancy way of saying, “making life so miserable for the employee that he/she quits.”
Retaliation After Worker’s Compensation Claim or Injuries
If an employee is injured at work, hurt on the job, or after filing a worker’s comp claim, it can be a violation of the law if the employer then fires the employee because of the worker’s comp claim. Now, an employee will rarely ever openly tell an employee, “we’re firing you BECAUSE you were hurt on the job.” They are usually not this foolish. So, to prove whether retaliation is taking place, the timing of the events must be examined. For example, after the injury or filing a worker’s comp claim:
- Did the employee’s duties or responsibilities change in a negative way?
- Did the employee get assigned to a “tough” supervisor or superior who has a reputation for getting people to quit?
- Did the employee get fired outright?
- Did the employee get pay cut, hours cut, demoted, etc. when the employee’s responsibilities have nothing to do with the injury?
- Is there other harassment/discrimination/retaliation going on?
It is illegal under California law and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act for employers to discriminate, or retaliate against employees who have medical conditions.
Common Company Responses
The majority of companies who illegally terminate employees who have been hurt or injured, or after a worker’s comp claim, make the following excuses. Take note of them, because they may be indicators that the termination of the employee is being done for improper and not legitimate reasons:
- The Company will claim it is downsizing
- The Company will claim the worker can no longer perform the essential job duties
- The Company will claim it is a “layoff” because business is slow
Harassment by Coworkers for Medical Condition
Another typical circumstance that injured workers often face is that, upon returning to work, they are given a hard time by coworkers or employees, who ridicule, bully, or harass them over the medical injury or condition. This is also a violation of law if the Company knows about the harassment and fails to do anything or permits the harassment to go on. Again, individuals with medical conditions are protected under California law and federal law from harassment and abuse at work, but sometimes, the employer turns a blind eye to harassment of the victim by colleague or co-workers, who say and do what the employer is thinking.
Getting FMLA and CFRA Leaves
If you end up with a serious medical condition, you may also have rights under FMLA and CFRA (California Family Rights Act). If your Company has more than 50 employees, you must be allowed to take a leave for up to 12 weeks, without losing your job, for a serious medical condition.
Getting Legal Help
If you have been injured on the job or at work, and have been fired, demoted, had your hours or pay cut, or you feel that you are being harassed or discriminated against specifically after filing a workers comp claim, then it is important to get legal advice. AXIS Legal Counsel represents employees on a 33% contingency basis – meaning that you don’t pay any fees for a contingency case unless we win and recover a settlement or monetary award for you. There is no risk in getting legal advice to see if you have a claim. The process is confidential, fast, and you will know whether AXIS can pursue your case usually by the end of the call. Our calls are answered immediately by operators and consultations generally take 15 minutes or less. In usually less than 15 minutes, you can have peace of mind by speaking to an attorney and at least being heard and hearing an honest assessment of your case.
Call Us for a Free Confidential Consultation
If you have been demoted, hours cut, terminated, or are suffering retaliation, discrimination, a hostile work environment, or other abuse at the workplace after a workplace injury or after a worker’s comp claim, give AXIS a call for a free confidential consultation today, at (213) 403-0130 or firstname.lastname@example.org.